A former Long Beach, Calif., police officer of
twenty-two years, Janice Cantore worked
a variety of assignments, including patrol,
administration, juvenile investigations, and
training. A few years ago, Janice retired
to a house in the mountains of Southern
California, where she writes suspense novels
designed to keep readers engrossed and leave
them inspired. Her latest suspense title is
Accused (Tyndale House), the first volume in
her Pacific Coast Justice series.
Q: What were your goals in writing Accused?
When I started writing Accused, I was writing it
for my aunt Elinor to read. At the time, she was not a
Christian, so the challenge was writing a Christian-themed
novel she would like, one that might show
her the need for her salvation. Unfortunately, she
passed away from cancer before it was finished. But
she did come to know the Lord at the end. I still want
to write Christian-themed novels non-Christians
will enjoy. I also want to tell good stories that will
communicate biblical truths without being preachy.
As a police officer, I saw so much hopelessness. I
often escaped to good fiction and knew that good
fiction with themes of hope and truth was what I
wanted to write.
Q: What elements of your new Pacific Coast
Justice series are driven by your real-life
experiences as a police officer?
I worked graveyard patrol for a good portion of the
time I was in the field, so I decided that would be
Carly’s world. The idea behind the juvenile accused
of murder germinated from a rather gruesome crime
committed by a minor when I was in juvenile. As I
thought about the boy being detained for murder, I
played the what-if game—”What if he was innocent
in spite of all the evidence?”—and decided that
would make a good story. But it’s never just work—life happens, so I gave Carly a frustrating backstory
of divorce and controversy, things I saw at work but
thankfully never experienced personally.
Q: When you were on
the job, how often did you
think, “Wow, this would
make a great idea for a
What usually impacted
me at work was the tragic. I
prayed for people often but
was seldom privy to how
the story ended. Amazingly,
when I did find out what happened, if God was
involved, it was always an inspirational finish.
I’ve blogged about a traffic accident I handled
where a nine-month-old boy was killed after his
mother fell asleep at the wheel. About a year later,
I read an interview with the woman where she
talked about how her faith carried her through
that tragedy and made her marriage stronger.
While the incident itself sounds horrible, what
grew from the tragedy was inspiring. I tend to be
pessimistic on first pass, but Christ makes you
optimistic. And what God can work in the face of
the worst fills people with hope and inspiration.
So from work I saw the tragic, but the story is
in what God can do in any situation. Hope from
tragedy always uplifts people. The first time
I actually sat down to write about something
was after the Rodney King riots. We worked
twelve-hour days for seven days straight, and I
was working the day things exploded. I tried to
write about it but couldn’t translate the feelings
to the page. I decided that what happened word
for word isn’t necessarily entertaining. The best
story contains elements of truth and elements of
a vivid imagination.
Q: When did you first know you wanted
to become a writer—and what did you do
I used to write horse stories when I was a child
and had spiral-bound notebooks filled with those
stories. I always wanted to write but was told often
that I would never make a living as an author. I took
creative writing in college, but the teacher didn’t
like anything I wrote, so I didn’t think I would ever
be able to call myself a writer. When I learned that
writing is like anything else that is important—you
have to work on it to be good at
it—I decided it was something I
wanted to work on. Accused as it
is in print now came from more
drafts than I can count because
it was the first novel I started.
I applied lessons I learned from
writers, conferences, from books,
and I’m fortunate that God put
in my path accomplished writer
Lauraine Snelling, who became
a mentor and friend. She edited
the early drafts for me, and I’ve
learned a great deal from her
over the years. I know now that
the learning never stops. No one
I know of writes a perfect-never-has-to-be-edited first draft, and
writing can always be improved.
Q: What are the most challenging aspects of incorporating
your faith into your story?
Not being preachy. I would like my books to appeal to a wide
audience. I think preachy turns a large segment off. My aunt Elinor
would have stopped reading “preachy” even if it was my book.
Q: What do you most hope readers get from reading your
Encouragement, a feeling of hope, and being uplifted. The Good
News of our Savior. I truly believe that with Christ there is always
hope, no matter the darkness of the situation. I want my stories to
communicate that truth in an enjoyable and exciting way.
Q: Why do you think storytelling is such a powerful way to
Everyone relates to a good story. People who have moved me
through their writing—Francine Rivers, Randy Alcorn, Terri
Blackstock—they write page-turners that communicate faith in
real-life situations. When you put one of their books down, you
are sorry you’ve finished—and you have something important
and special to think about. Storytelling takes people to new and
interesting worlds. The truth doesn’t change, but sometimes
people can see it better if it’s coming from a different setting.